Evaluating Website Design Alternatives – A Counter-Intuitive Approach

Your visitors may not see your website as you do.

Choosing a website design is one of the most difficult decisions for any business owner to make. That’s because the only approval of the decision that counts is that of potential visitors to the website. Will they stay on the site? Will they find what they are looking for? Will they enjoy their visit? Jared M. Spool of UIE (User Interface Engineering) is an expert in Usability, which is involved in trying to make those predictions.

In a slightly technical paper, he surprisingly suggests A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Evaluating Design Alternatives. It may not be the obvious way, but what he proposes makes eminent good sense. The case study he describes is as follows:

The company team is about to redesign their home page and navigation. They have three home page design alternatives and five navigation alternatives, created by an outside firm who didn’t do any evaluations of the designs. To help figure out which design to pick, the team has (finally!) received approval for their first usability testing study. While their site has been around for years, they’ve never watched visitors use it before now.

The obvious way might have involved a large number of users looking at all these different possibilities. The method that Spool proposes is much leaner than that and extremely practical. One critical step is the following:

Recruit from 2 User Groups
We recommended the team recruit both loyal and new users as study participants. The first day of testing should be loyal users of the site and the second day should be new users to the site. The loyal users would help figure out what the important tasks are. The new users will help determine what’s important for people new to the site, such as how they figure out the basics.

He describes much more detailed methodology, but the summary above brings out the essence of choosing between website designs. You must have a clear view of what you would like your visitors to do when they visit you. You must then make sure that your design functions well. Remember that you have the most tenuous of holds on a visitor who has clicked to your website. They can easily click away if they find the experience frustrating.